Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zimbabwe: Maternal mortality on the rise in Zimbabwe

Source: United Nations Radio

In Zimbabwe, mothers are dying at an alarming rate. Eight mothers die giving birth every day. The country's health system has been weakened after years of economic upheaval. Expectant mothers are now being charged for health related expenses and many can't afford the basic life-saving services they need. Gail Walker reports.

Narrator: At the Kuwadzana Clinic, west of the capital city Harare doctors and nurses attend to expectant mothers.

Sister Aqualine Magandi works as a midwife at the clinic. She says home deliveries can be dangerous but adds many pregnant women in Zimbabwe find it difficult to come up with the money needed for their pre-natal checkups.

"Most of them are earning below $1.50 so they can't afford the $50 dollar fees we are charging, but there are so many dangers in delivering at home. We also encourage them to deliver at clinics because we want to prevent conditions like postpartum haemorrhage. If the mother bleeds at home, it's difficult for them to arrest the haemorrhage."

Narrator: While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that governments allot $34 per person per year for health care, Zimbabwe is currently spending $9 per person per year.

According to the ministry of health and child welfare, the costs of health care are shifting to expectant mothers as hospitals and clinics struggle to survive, keeping even the most basic services out of reach of the poorest people.

Thokozani Khupe is Zimbabwe's Deputy Prime Minister. She says the government must commit the necessary financial investments to build a comprehensive public health system that can cater to everyone.

"A healthy nation can only come from healthy women. The current state where 725 out of 100,000 deliveries die during pregnancy is cause for concern. No women should die while giving life."

Narrator: Currently in Zimbabwe one in three children are stunted, 100 children die daily due to easily preventable diseases while maternal mortality is more than double what it was in 1990.

Health experts say an additional investment of $700 million over the next three years is needed to reduce the number of deaths among children under five and pregnant women.

Gail Walker, United Nations